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In today's fast-paced and demanding world, the impacts of trauma are more prevalent than ever before. Students enter classrooms carrying a diverse range of traumatic experiences, from personal hardships to broader societal challenges. Ideally, educators understand and address these experiences, creating safe and supportive environments that foster healing and growth. This is where trauma-informed teaching comes into play, revolutionizing the way we approach education.

Trauma-informed teaching is an approach that recognizes the profound impact of trauma on students' social, emotional, and cognitive well-being. It involves understanding how trauma can affect learning, behavior, and relationships and using that knowledge to create a compassionate and supportive educational environment. Rather than asking, "What's wrong with this child?" trauma-informed teachers ask, "What happened to this child?" This shift in mindset paves the way for healing and growth.

Successful trauma informed teaching involves several key factors.


Creating a physically and emotionally safe space is paramount. Trauma-informed teachers establish clear expectations, routines, and boundaries while emphasizing trust and respect. They prioritize building connections with students, promoting a sense of belonging and security. Check out our blog post on fostering emotional safety in relationships to learn more on exactly how to do this.


Educators must develop a deep awareness of the signs and symptoms of trauma. This enables them to recognize potential triggers and respond with empathy and understanding. Being fully present with students is helpful here. By being attuned to the individual needs of each student, trauma-informed teachers can adapt their teaching strategies accordingly.


Trauma can significantly impact students' ability to regulate their emotions and behaviors. Trauma-informed teachers employ strategies that help students develop self-regulation skills. This may include mindfulness exercises, breathing techniques, and other tools that promote emotional well-being.


Collaboration between teachers, administrators, support staff, and families is vital in creating a trauma-informed school community. By working together, educators can share insights, experiences, and resources, ensuring a holistic approach to trauma-informed teaching.


Nonviolent Communication and How it Can Help

Nonviolent Communication, or NVC, can aid in re-routing the brain's trauma responses. Many people, not just students, react to fairly neutral external stimuli with exaggerated responses due to trauma in the brain. Our brains are designed to keep us safe, so when it perceives that a situation is unsafe, regardless of if that is true or not, it will typically trigger a reaction of fight, flight, or freeze.

The funny thing is (or not-so-funny thing), those trauma responses that happen when a person is not actually in danger tend to lead to disconnection, which sometimes takes the form of more trauma or even violence. In a school environment, this could look like a child getting into fights or screaming at a teacher or maybe completely shutting down and failing their classes.

Nonviolent Communication takes the trauma response out of our language by replacing blame and judgment with curiosity and empathy. When educators use NVC with students, they foster emotional safety, create deeper connections, and start to re-wire the trauma response in those students who have experienced trauma.

It works like this: when a person - let's say a student - has experienced a traumatic event, they may have fear, anxiety, anger, and a whole slew of other emotions around circumstances related to that event. If they are exposed to similar circumstances or stimuli relating to that traumatic event, their brains will try to keep them safe by responding as if there is another trauma that is about to occur, even if no harm is coming. By exposing people who have experienced trauma to those stimuli, and then repeatedly following it up with physical and emotional safety, the brain slowly starts to recognize that that particular stimuli is not necessarily a trigger for alarm, but rather something neutral.

(For a great read about ending the trauma epidemic via NVC, check out this book.)

NVC training for educators available. The teachers being trained in this trauma-informed practice have reported greater ease in their classroom environment with students, and even greater connection with co-workers. If you are an educator and you would like to learn more about this trauma-informed training, check out this Intro to Nonviolent Communication Training.

Mindful communication refers to the practice of engaging in conscious and intentional communication with others. It involves being fully present and aware of both oneself and the other person during a conversation or interaction. Mindful communication aims to foster understanding, compassion, and connection by promoting clarity, active listening, and non-judgmental awareness.

So what does this really mean? Let's dive into what this looks like and how you can start practicing mindful communication with the people in your life.

Presence is key. This means being fully with someone in the moment and giving your complete attention to the person with whom you're communicating. Presence involves setting aside distractions and focusing completely on the conversation at hand. Active listening is also helpful alongside presence - so while someone is speaking, seek to understand what they are saying and acknowledge their feelings, needs, and experiences rather than thinking about ways to bring the conversation back to you. Staying present with someone is an internal experience. It is very much about what you are thinking - do your best to keep your mind from wandering to anything but what the person is saying.

Practice non-judgmental awareness. Cultivate a mindset of acceptance and openness, without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions. Try being aware of your own biases and judgments and consciously choosing to suspend them during the communication process. One rule of thumb I like to use: lean in with curiosity. Anytime you notice that you might have judgments about what someone is saying, see if you can shift that to being curious instead.

Empathy empathy empathy! Try doing this from a standpoint of genuine care. Approach the conversation with an intention of connection, then lean in with curiosity and compassion. Reflect back to the person some key points that they share and take some guesses as to what they might be feeling or needing. Empathy requires presence and active listening, so stay with the other person mentally, and seek to understand and connect with their emotions, experiences, and needs. Check out this post for a more thorough guide on how to empathize with someone.

Be clear and authentic. Mindful communication isn't just about listening to another person. It is about sharing what is alive in you, too! Communicate with honesty, sincerity, and clarity as best as you can. Mindful communication requires expressing yourself in a way that is genuine and respectful, while also considering the impact of your words on others.

Practice emotional regulation. Try to be aware of your own emotions and regulate them effectively during communication. This might look like managing reactive responses, such as raising your voice or defensiveness when you are feeling frustrated or angry, and responding in a calm and composed manner. This does not mean you have to fake anything. You can still be authentic while regulating your emotions. Sometimes, when emotions are too much, and you don't think you can respond with compassion and kindness, politely communicate that you need some time away from the conversation, and return back to it after you have done some processing. When you do return, you can share what is/was alive in you without using blame, judgement, or a register that might be uncomfortable for someone to receive. This is not always easy, and it takes a lot of practice. Be gentle with yourself and remember that your overall intention for the conversation is connection.

Be mindful about your speech. Pay attention to the words you use, their tone, and their impact on the listener. Mindful communication encourages using language that is inclusive, nonviolent, and conducive to creating a connecting and harmonious atmosphere.

Okay, now I realize it is one thing to read this and intellectually understand what mindful communication is, but it is a totally separate thing to actually do this in real life. Practicing mindful communication with others takes quite a bit of mental and emotional energy sometimes, and it is not always easy, especially at first. The Bigbie Method offers not only education on this stuff, but also guidance from trained facilitators, opportunities to practice in an emotionally safe, low-risk environment, and accountability to keep you in integrity with your practice. If you're interested in any of that, click here to learn more.

If it requires so much work, why bother? What is the point? Well, there are several reasons to consider practicing a more mindful and nonviolent style of communication.

  • Improved relationships

  • Enhanced listening skills

  • Conflict resolution

  • Reduced misunderstandings

  • Increased emotional intelligence

  • Stress reduction

  • Improved decision-making

  • Personal growth

Some of these may seem like no-brainers. It probably isn't a surprise that relationships tend to improve when you pay attention to someone, show them empathy and compassion, and speak to them with respect. But it may not be obvious that mindful communication allows for more intentional and thoughtful decision-making. By considering various perspectives, listening to different viewpoints, and engaging in open dialogue, you can make more informed choices and reach better outcomes.

Again, all of this is done with the intention of connection - with other and even with self - and when that happens, I truly believe one's quality of life increases.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a powerful framework developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg for fostering empathy, understanding, and peaceful resolution of conflicts. Nonviolent Communication focuses on observable facts, feelings, fundamental human needs, and making requests - and this focus intentionally steers users away from blame and judgment. By practicing NVC, individuals can learn to communicate in a way that supports connection, resolves conflicts peacefully, and cultivates compassionate relationships.

It's important to note that while Nonviolent Communication is focused on communication skills, it also encompasses a broader philosophy and mindset that emphasizes empathy, respect, and nonviolence in all aspects of life.

If you're looking for books on nonviolent communication, here are some that I recommend:

"Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life" by Marshall B. Rosenberg:

Of course this book is first on our list. This is the foundational book written by the creator of Nonviolent Communication. It provides a comprehensive introduction to the principles, techniques, and philosophy of NVC, along with numerous practical examples and exercises.

Interestingly enough, Marshall Rosenberg actually once said he wished he hadn't written this book, because he doesn't want people to think that all they had to do was read a book and then they would fully understand NVC. Rather, NVC takes practice, dedication, and ideally guidance from skilled NVC trainers.

While we agree with Marshall on this point, the book is still worth reading and serves as a great educational tool. If you are interested in guidance from skilled NVC trainers, check out this Intro to NVC Course.

Find the book here.

"Nonviolent Communication Companion Workbook" by Lucy Leu:

This workbook serves as a companion to Marshall Rosenberg's book and offers a range of exercises, activities, and practice scenarios to help readers internalize and apply the principles of NVC in their daily lives.

As noted earlier, practical application of NVC and dedicated practice are imperative to the learning process, which is why we think this book is valuable. One can't just read their way through a mastery of something - they must also do.

Find the book here.

"Getting Past the Pain Between Us: Healing and Reconciliation Without Compromise" by Marshall B. Rosenberg:

This book focuses on applying Nonviolent Communication principles to resolve conflicts and heal emotional wounds in personal relationships. It offers insights into the dynamics of conflicts and provides guidance on fostering empathy, understanding, and reconciliation.

While NVC can be used with anyone in any situation, in conflict or not, it is particularly useful (and equally challenging) in situations of deep hurt within personal relationships. For some reason, it is often the case that the people we are closest to are also the people in which we use violent language with the most often. I believe it is something about comfort and trust - trust that those people will continue to be there regardless of how we treat them. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't treat them with empathy, consideration, and respect.

This book dives into those kinds of conflicts and how NVC can heal deep emotional wounds within close relationships.

Find the book here.

"My Link to Mildred: Interrupting the Epidemic of Trauma via Nonviolent Communication" by Dr. Cindy Bigbie:

"The trauma in your life didn't start with you, but you have the power to end it."

- Dr. Cindy Bigbie

I may be a little biased when it comes to this book, as it is the story and work of my friend and mentor, Cindy Bigbie, however it is a truly powerful and touching read. "My Link to Mildred" is not only a book about NVC; it is a book about psychological functioning, trauma responses in the brain and body, generational trauma, and family. Dr. Bigbie's book chronicles the trauma experienced through her own family. She also provides windows into the trauma of some of her former students. Most importantly, her book shows how Nonviolent Communication interrupted those cycles of trauma while fostering healing and connection.

The other books on this list are much more educational. This book is as well, but it is more narrative than instruction. Think creative nonfiction meets self-help. And it will likely bring you to tears.

Find the book here.

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